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Linux careers expand, prove lucrative for qualified IT pros

The Linux job market is hot, but how do you get a lucrative Linux career?

There is an abundance of Linux careers, but you might not be right for the job.

The expansion of Linux and the advancement of products that run with the open source operating system have caused a need for Linux talent to fill available jobs. Demand for Linux talent has even launched salaries above industry standards.

In fact, 77% of hiring managers said hiring Linux talent is a top priority for 2014, up 7% from 2013, according to a report released by the Linux Foundation and Dice, a technology career site.

But what kinds of skills are necessary to land these Linux careers?

Are you Linux-certified?

Hiring managers need more people with Linux skills to help build the future of computing.
Amanda McPhersonvice president of marketing and developer programs, the Linux Foundation

The certifications and experience requirements for a Linux system admin have changed in the past five years and will continue to evolve along with technology. Recently, Linux careers have demanded proof of expertise in cloud and automation tools as the data center evolves toward cloud computing and workload automation tools.

Not all available positions require certifications, but hiring a worker with accreditations is a way companies verify skills, said Gerald Pfeifer, director of product management for SUSE. The 2014 Linux Jobs Report indicates that 86% of Linux professionals believe that Linux skills are integral to career advancement.

"Performance-based knowledge through certifications that support employer tests are more critical than ever," said Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the Linux Foundation.

Although certifications aren't necessary, there is a growing demand from companies that want to be sure system administrators can really do what they claim they can do.

"At SUSE, relevant experience, technical knowledge, attitude and active participation in the open source community matters more than certificates," said Marie Louise van Deutekom, global human resources director at SUSE.

What positions are being filled?

Jobs run the gamut from system administrator positions to technical support to sales. Companies like SUSE fill openings with only the most qualified, but also those with the right attitude and knowledge.

What matters is "quality, passion and compatibility with our culture," van Deutekom said.

Good new hires "know how to spin up servers fast and manage a virtualized environment that support cloud computing and other new technologies," McPherson said.

Experience wanted -- Linux talent only

As the largest collaborative development computing project, Linux offers unlimited opportunity. More college graduates are seeking Linux careers than ever before, but lack of experience may prevent them from getting these jobs.

"Hiring managers need more people with Linux skills to help build the future of computing," McPherson said.

Recent graduates have "some understanding" of Linux's prevalence from their time in the classroom, she added. But the jobs report indicates that the "sweet spot" for hiring managers is three to five years' experience.

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Should certifications be required for all Linux jobs?
Unless the certification is hands-on, such as the RHCSA and RHSE, then I say no. A paper certification conveys nothing in my opinion
I have to say no. I will never expect Linux folks coming out of college or a trade school to know some of the things that are on those tests. However, there are some Linux jobs where properly-aligned certifications would absolutely be desirable. No certification is really enough to know if a given applicant will really be able to do everything you need them to do on day one.
This looks like it's heading in the direction of 'no experience, no job' one would hope that certification would get a job somewhere to starting gathering experidnce. Otherwise in time the industry would run out of available experienced candidates.
Yes - Certification is Important. It shows you know something about Linux to a certain Degree and that you are interested about Linux. Certification should be the starting. New linux professionals do not come out of thin air. There has to be a starting point. Linux industry will lose out of future linux professionals if new candidates are not given a starting point.
No, knowledge and experience!
Skills with the core of Linux are important. However, they're not enough for a lot of jobs in a data center environment. Interviewing Linux engineering candidates with years of experience and hearing "what's a SAN?" is a big disappointment. Not all Linux is virtualized. Managing a simple LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) environment is not going to prepare a candidate completely for running a highly transactional Oracle eBusiness Suite or SAP environment for a Fortune 500 company.

Some certifications do include very practical exams (I hold an RHCE for RHEL 5 - the test was extremely realistic). Some do not. Regardless, it is impossible to test all aspects of knowledge about an O/S or platform in any one test. Certifications can be useful to the hiring manager, but they are far from the end of the story. It is possible to hold the highest levels of certification and never deal with some levels of complexity in the real world.